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CEDAR FALLS — There was a familiar face at the Northern Iowa men’s basketball offices last week.
His 6-foot-8 frame had crossed through that doorway more than a few times, and his likeness is on the walls where his former coaches go about their daily duties.
But nearly a year removed from becoming an All-American and Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, Seth Tuttle looked and carried himself just a bit differently. His European haircut and clothes — including a scarf he was particularly proud of — framed a young man halfway through his first professional basketball season.
He was back to take in some UNI practice, maybe catch a game and for certain see his old teammates and coaches.
Tuttle will forever be linked to the Panthers and their program, and he won’t ever let it stray from his attention. Even as he’s gotten into the starting lineup for s.Oliver Baskets in Wuerzburg, Germany, he doesn’t miss a UNI game if he can help it — as anyone who follows him on Twitter (@stuttle10) can attest.
“It’s fun, but it’s hard at the same time. Most of the games are at 2 a.m. (in Germany) and I stay up every time to watch them,” Tuttle said as he watched UNI practice. “It’s been a lot of fun to watch these guys, especially because I played with a lot of these guys. (Matt) Bohannon, Wes (Washpun) and Paul (Jesperson), and a lot of these guys are some of my best friends.
"At the same time it’s terribly sad and definitely a challenge to watch.”
As the Sheffield native has grown in his professional life, he’s tried hard to let go of feeling tied to UNI’s performance.
It’s really easy, he said, to watch the Panthers and critique his former teammates, or get lost in the ups and downs. Over the summer, after he signed with the Miami Heat and played with them in the NBA’s Summer League, Tuttle came back to scrimmage with UNI players, including the incoming freshmen.
He recalled a day where he was helping freshman Justin Dahl, and taught the young red-shirt a bit about using his thick frame to his advantage.
“I told him to use his body to bury me under the hoop,” Tuttle said. “I let him once, and he hit me, man. I didn’t let him do it again.”
But beyond that he’s held back. It’s not up to him anymore, he said.
“I don’t have anything to do with it. That’s not necessarily my job, especially with how this program works,” Tuttle said. “Wes, Bo and Paul have that covered. We make leadership a priority and those guys have done a good job.
“It’s a whole different team, a whole different year; just a different chemistry. It’s really up to them.”
Instead he’s watched as an avid fan, celebrating like everyone else with the North Carolina and Iowa State wins, his pride in “my brothers” getting those wins was evident in the wide smile on his face when talking about it, as well as the big hugs he got from everyone when he walked through McLeod Center.
The congratulations went both ways, by the way.
Tuttle has caught on with s.Oliver Baskets, averaging 10.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game in the Basketball Bundesliga (BBL) and has been his team’s high scorer in the last two games with 20 and 21 points.
The switch to European-style basketball has been difficult at times, with some rule oddities and game plan differences. A 24-second shot clock and the pace at which his team is forced to play is in stark contrast to his UNI days.
“I’ll get an open shot with 12 on the clock and I’m used to it being 25 on the clock and not having to shoot it, that we’ll get a better shot,” Tuttle said. “Now if I don’t shoot that, I get yelled at. In this league, you might not get a better shot.”
Tuttle mentioned specifically a different travel call that drives him nuts. Keeping his emotions in check has been an adjustment. The Tuttle Scream was commonplace at UNI games, as was obvious disagreement — and discussions with officials — when a foul call went against him.
That’s not allowed at all in the BBL. Arguing calls leads to an immediate technical. Thankfully for Tuttle, he doesn’t know enough German to cause much damage.
“You have to put the ball down before you take a step. The way I get it called the most is when I get the ball at the top of the key, if I pump fake, then go, and then dribble, I get a travel called on me,” Tuttle said. “If you pump fake and take that first step without putting the ball down, even if you don’t move the back foot, it’s a travel.
“You have no idea the frustration level I had. I got called for it in the last game and I’m pretty sure I dropped every word in the books. I was frustrated. I still get frustrated talking about it right now. But obviously it’s part of the game over there and you have to adapt to it.”
Ultimately the lessons he learned at UNI have helped him adapt just fine in Germany.
Even if his current coach, Douglas Spradley, is the polar opposite to Ben Jacobson — Tuttle said, “My coach that I play for now is more like a motivator. He’s going to get in your face and tell you to pick it up and just try to get you going,” — the lessons Jacobson and his staff have taught him are why he’s had such success so far.
Tuttle was back to see his friends — and give them a hard time, to be sure — and catch up with the coach and program that helped transform him from the tall skinny kid who led West Fork High School to state to the pro he is now.
“The appreciation I have for Coach Jake is off the charts. I still message him, I still ask him for advice in every aspect of life, not just basketball,” Tuttle said. “Coach Jake is a role model of mine and will be a role model of mine for the rest of my life. For the amount he’s helped me shape the player I am and the person I am, I obviously owe him a lot.
“For me to be able to follow them, watch them and now get to cheer for them — watch them try to mold a different team into a good basketball team — has been fun.”
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